1983 – Pink Floyd – The Final Cut
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01. The Post War Dream
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The Final Cut is a rock album by Pink Floyd recorded at various studios in the UK from July to December 1982. It is the final Pink Floyd studio album to feature the band’s bassist and primary songwriter Roger Waters.
The album is predominantly the work of Waters, this being the only Pink Floyd album on which the composers’ credit on every track is given to Waters alone. Keyboardist Rick Wright played no part in the recording of The Final Cut having been sacked by Waters during recording of The Wall, meaning that this is the only Pink Floyd album on which Wright does not feature at all. David Gilmour meanwhile sings lead vocals on only one of the album’s twelve songs, the rest being sung entirely by Waters.
The recording of The Final Cut was marred by tension between Waters and his bandmates, particularly Gilmour, who has since expressed his dislike for much of the album. For these and other reasons, it is sometimes regarded as a Roger Waters solo album rather than a true Pink Floyd album. None of the album’s songs has ever been performed live by Pink Floyd, though some have been performed live by Waters during solo tours.
Waters’ dominance on the album is most clearly seen on the back cover, which reads: The Final Cut: A Requiem for the Post-War Dream – by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd
The Final Cut was originally scheduled to be nothing more than a film soundtrack album for the band’s 1982 movie The Wall. The album was originally to be entitled Spare Bricks and would have featured songs from The Wall which had been re-recorded for the film, such as ‘Mother’, ‘Bring the Boys Back Home’, ‘Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)’, ‘Outside the Wall’ and the new versions of ‘In the Flesh?’ and ‘In the Flesh’ with the film’s lead actor Bob Geldof on lead vocals, as well as two songs included in the film but not on the original album (‘When the Tigers Broke Free (Parts 1 and 2)’ and ‘What Shall We Do Now?’). Roger Waters also planned to record a small amount of ‘new’ material for inclusion on the album (actually old songs he had intended for the Wall album but which the band had rejected at that point) which would further flesh out The Wall narrative, such as ‘Your Possible Pasts’ (part of the lyric of which was recited by Geldof during the film), ‘One of the Few’, ‘The Hero’s Return’ and ‘The Final Cut’.
At some point during the period when the album was still planned as a The Wall soundtrack LP, the working title was changed to The Final Cut, in reference to both the title of one of the songs scheduled for inclusion and also to the album’s purpose as a film soundtrack and to it being the last product of the long running The Wall multimedia project.
When ‘When the Tigers Broke Free’ was issued as a single with the re-recorded film version of ‘Bring the Boys Back Home’ on the B-side, the label on both sides of the single claimed the tracks to be taken from the forthcoming Final Cut album – however neither song ultimately ended up being included on the album due to Roger Waters’ decision to radically change the content and purpose of the album.
His decision came after the Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina in summer 1982. Waters was so enraged by the war, which he considered as Margaret Thatcher wasting the young British lives to improve her own political standing, and especially the sinking of an Argentine cruiser bearing hundreds of teenage Argentine conscripts, that he quickly wrote a large batch of new material, attacking Thatcher’s supposed war-mongering, which he deemed a betrayal of the hopes and dreams of those who had earlier fought in the Second World War.
Waters decided that The Final Cut should not be merely a The Wall soundtrack album after all but a proper, new Pink Floyd studio album. He elected to ditch the re-recordings of songs from The Wall and the previously released ‘When the Tigers Broke Free’, while retaining the old songs previously rejected from The Wall album as they fitted well with the new material thanks to their appropriate subject matter and also established a conceptual and thematic link between the new album and The Wall. The rest of the album was to be taken up with Waters’ new material.
However the recording sessions for the album, taking place at various studios around England, including Abbey Road Studios and Waters’ own Billiard Room Studios, did not run smoothly. Both David Gilmour and Nick Mason were unenthusiastic about Waters’ ideas for the new album, with Gilmour in particular expressing strong reservations about both the material Waters wanted to record and also the general direction Waters’ writing was taking. Gilmour objected to Waters’ plans to include old songs on a new Pink Floyd studio album that had years before been rejected from The Wall, asking Waters “if these songs were not good enough then, why are they good enough now?”. Gilmour also felt that the old and new material alike was mostly weak or uninteresting musically and that the band were losing the “balance” between the music and lyrics. In addition Gilmour also argued that Waters’ lyrics had become too “specific” as opposed to his earlier, more “nebulous” lyrics that were open to multiple interpretations – he particularly objected to Waters’ direct references to Thatcher and other world leaders, which he felt was an unsuitable form of lyric writing for a Pink Floyd album. Gilmour claims that Waters seemed to regard his complaints and suggestions as “interference” and, unlike in the past, he was unwilling to allow other band members to have their say.
Gilmour has suggested that the reason for this change in Waters’ attitude towards him personally was due to a breakdown in their relations during the making of the Wall movie, caused by Gilmour going over Waters’ head to coax director Alan Parker back to the film set to continue directing the movie after he had previously walked out and left Waters to take over.
With Rick Wright out of the band having been sacked by Waters, keyboards on the album were played by Michael Kamen and Andy Bown. Aside from playing rhythm guitar on most of the tracks, Gilmour is restricted to four, relatively short guitar solos and provides lead vocals on only one of the album’s twelve songs, Not Now John. Mason does play drums on most of the tracks, though Waters hired renowned session drummer Andy Newmark to play drums on ‘Two Suns in the Sunset’ due to his dissatisfaction with Mason’s attempts at handling the song’s time signature changes. Mason also created most of the holophonic sound effects heard on the album, spending several weeks making field recordings at various locations in the U.K., including a RAF base (Waters however insisted that Mason receive no credit on the album sleeve for any of his work creating sound effects, nor any additional royalties).
Waters himself plays bass and sings on every track, as well as providing various acoustic and rhythm guitar parts. Other musicians brought in to contribute included renowned percussionist Ray Cooper and saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft, who was best known for playing the iconic lead on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. Kamen, in addition to playing keyboards, arranged the orchestrations on the album. Gilmour initially started out co-producing the album with Waters and James Guthrie, but eventually agreed to have his production work go uncredited on the album (although he still received a share of the producers’ royalties).
The Final Cut was recorded using “Holophonics” – an audio processing technique used to enhance the aural three-dimensional ‘feel’ of the recording. Holophonics was used to make sound effects on the album appear more three-dimensional to the listener – sound effects, particularly when heard on headphones, appear to pass not just from left to right in the stereo spectrum but also from in front to behind of the listener and around them. Perhaps the most notable use of holophonics on the album is on the song ‘Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert’ – during the intro, an aeroplane is heard to fly swiftly overhead, passing from in front of the listener to behind them, before a huge explosion from the bomb it has dropped is heard surrounding the listener both in front and behind them and to either side of the stereo picture. The use of this technique was in keeping with Pink Floyd’s long standing interest in using atmospheric sound effects combined with advances and innovations in audio technology to enhance the listener’s experience of their music. It was also claimed that this process could not be duplicated if one made a copy of the recording i.e., copying from the vinyl record to tape cassette.
Breakdown in Communications
Relations between Roger Waters and the rest of the band effectively broke down during the sessions. Waters dominated proceedings, furthering the tension between himself and his bandmates, particularly Gilmour. Gilmour reported that Mason “wasn’t around very much” and, when he was, Waters repeatedly criticised the drummer and told him he was “crap”, destroying his confidence as a musician. Gilmour states that with Mason beginning to attend the studio infrequently, Waters then “started on me”, leading to many severe arguments between them.
Mason has stated that one exchange in the studio became so heated that it erupted into violence, with Gilmour and Waters coming to blows before being separated by himself and James Guthrie. Both Gilmour and Waters have always denied this. Gilmour has said that relations eventually became so strained that he effectively walked out on the sessions and left Waters to it, telling him “look, if you need a guitar solo, phone me” before leaving. Waters himself has suggested that his singing suffered on the album due to the arguments and in-fighting causing so much tension that he felt unable to truly “express myself”, and that he realised during the sessions that Pink Floyd effectively no longer existed as a functioning band.
Waters stated that, because of his bandmate’s objections to the content of the work, he ultimately offered to release The Final Cut as a solo album crediting Gilmour and Mason only as session players, but Gilmour refused and requested the album be released as a Pink Floyd record due to pressure from the band’s record company EMI, who wanted a Pink Floyd album, not a Roger Waters solo album. However, in his book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason disputed this account, writing that Roger never offered to release The Final Cut as a solo album, something he has also stated in the past. Regardless, the album cover clearly spelled out Waters’ domination on the work by the subtitle “A Requiem for the Post War Dream by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd”.
Release and Aftermath
The Final Cut LP was released by Harvest/EMI in the U.K. on 21 March 1983, then on Columbia Records in the U.S. on 2 April. The Final Cut reached #1 on the UK album charts – something that both Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall had failed to do – but was less successful in the U.S. in this regard, peaking at #6 in the U.S. on the Billboard album charts. The Final Cut went Gold and Platinum in the U.S. in May 1983 with a million copies in sales and then Double Platinum on 31 January 1997. The Final Cut was however the lowest selling Pink Floyd studio album since Meddle (released in 1971) in both the U.S. and worldwide. Gilmour would later claim that this relative commercial “failure” proved that he was correct to assert that much of the material on the album was weak.
‘Not Now John’ was released as a single worldwide to promote the album, with the lyric “fuck all that” overdubbed as “stuff all that” (the lyrics on the sleeve of the 7″ single contain that phrase “stop all that”) in order to attain radio airplay. The single featured an extended version of ‘The Hero’s Return’ on the B-side which included an additional verse.
The Final Cut was to be the only Pink Floyd album not to have a concert tour in support of the album as the band simply went their separate ways after completing the album, with Roger Waters diving head first into the recording of The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking while David Gilmour recorded his own solo album About Face.
Reportedly some preliminary plans were made for a Final Cut tour but it seems that the idea of any live performances promoting the album was quickly abandoned, presumably due to the breakdown in relations between the band members and also possibly Gilmour and Mason’s dislike of much of the material. No songs from the album have ever been performed live by Pink Floyd since, although Roger Waters has played a number of the songs live on all of his subsequent solo tours, starting with his very first such tour promoting The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking in 1984.
With the album finished and released, the band went their separate ways, with Gilmour and Waters both embarking on solo projects. The status of the band was unclear, with Waters having decided that Pink Floyd was no longer a functioning unit and with Gilmour apparently largely in agreement and determined to try and establish a career for himself outside of Pink Floyd. Conversely however, the band publicly denied that The Final Cut would be their last album together, as had been rumoured.
Roger Waters Leaves Pink Floyd: 1985
In 1985, after Gilmour had attempted to persuade Waters to begin work on a new Pink Floyd project after the guitarist’s own solo outings had met with a mixed response, Waters announced that he had left the band and that Pink Floyd were a “spent force creatively”, with Waters intimating that his departure meant the band no longer existed. To Waters’ shock and disapproval, Gilmour and Mason announced that they intended to continue with Pink Floyd regardless of his departure and, along with former keyboardist Rick Wright hired as a session player, later released a new Floyd album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, in 1987 and, with Wright eventually restored as a full time member of the band, continued to tour and record as a trio.
Final Cut Album Themes
The Final Cut is an anti-war concept album, usually perceived to be extremely dark and pessimistic in tone. The album was inspired by the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Britain’s involvement in the Falklands War. Waters’ lyrics explore what he regards as the betrayal of the British servicemen, such as his own father, who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War in the hope that victory would allow successor generations to build a better, more humane society based on progressive, humanist values, where political leaders would heed the lessons of the past and no longer be so readily prepared to resort to war as a means of settling disputes or furthering their aims (this being the ‘Post-War Dream’ referred to on the album sleeve). The album is heavily critical of Thatcher, who Waters apparently regards as the chief architect of this betrayal.
Musically, much of The Final Cut has little connection with the familiar Pink Floyd sound, featuring little in the way of synthesisers or extended instrumental passages and with many of the arrangements focused around acoustic instruments such as acoustic guitars, piano, brass, string quartets and full orchestrations, although the album does also feature some heavier, hard rock songs which have arrangements and an overall sound similar to many tracks on The Wall.
The Final Cut was Pink Floyd’s lowest selling album since Meddle (although it still sold three million copies, and reached #1 in the British album charts). Opinion on The Final Cut remains divided – while the album has on occasion been voted the worst Pink Floyd album in fan polls and is held in low regard by some fans and critics, others have suggested that the album contains some of the most powerful and moving songs in the band’s catalogue.
Final Cut Video EP Film
Pink Floyd released a 19-minute Final Cut video EP, essentially four music videos in a continuous sequence, directed by Willie Christie, who was Waters’ brother-in-law. The running order was ‘The Gunner’s Dream’, ‘The Final Cut’, ‘Not Now John’, and ‘The Fletcher Memorial Home’.
The film is now available on the band’s web site. English actor Alex McAvoy, who played the teacher in the film version of The Wall, had a prominent role in the video EP, apparently reprising the same role. The video is conceptual, rather than merely a collection of music videos, and offers a glimse of the teacher’s life outside the school, attempting to come to terms with his experiences during World War Two while his son goes off to fight in the Falklands. Other characters from the album also put in an appearance in the video, such as the prostitute from ‘Your Possible Pasts’ and Margaret Thatcher (portrayed by a lookalike).
Roger Waters appears (though all but his mouth is sillhouetted) as a patient singing the lyrics to a psychologist on the grounds of the Fletcher Memorial Home (possibly intended to represent the character Pink from The Wall).
Concepts in The Final Cut
The album has three overlapping storylines:
* One portrays Waters’ view on world affairs at the time (Tracks 1, 5, 7-9, 12, 13 of the 2004 reissue). Much of this was formed by the Falklands War, condemning among others Margaret Thatcher, Ian Paisley, Ronald Reagan, Leonid Brezhnev and Menachem Begin. The name Fletcher in “The Fletcher Memorial Home” is in honour and remembrance of his father (to whom the whole album is dedicated in the credits), who was killed in action at Anzio during World War II. The album also espouses his views of an ideal world, ending the album with a nuclear holocaust he feared might happen in the real world.
* The second is the story of the mental plight of a World War II veteran and teacher (Tracks 2-4, 5, 6). The tracks then feature him dealing with memories of the war (Your Possible Pasts, The Gunner’s Dream), taking out his problems on schoolchildren (One of the Few, The Hero’s Return), and lamenting his life (Paranoid Eyes). The abusive teacher is also mentioned in The Wall, viewed as “one of the bricks” by its main character, Pink (see also, The Happiest Days of Our Lives)
* The final is a story of a depressed man (who might be Pink after he tore down the wall) who either tries to block himself to the real world or kill himself, but is stopped. Track 11, “The Final Cut,” was intended to fit in with Pink Floyd’s previous album and rock opera, The Wall. The person singing in The Final Cut is highly reminiscent of the depressive, schizophrenic Pink from The Wall, although Waters does sing most of the album in that same vocal style, a half-squeaky, half-deep voice. The first verse of the song ends with “And if you make it past the shotguns in the hall, dial the combination, open the priesthole, and if I’m in I’ll tell you what’s behind the wall”, with the words “what’s behind the wall” having been overdubbed with a loud shotgun sound and some shouting.
Analysis and Reception
Easily Pink Floyd’s most political album, the record is a critique of the contemporary world order in the early 1980s, featuring Waters’ commentary on topics like globalization, the Falklands War, and nuclear holocaust. The narrator of the majority of the album, whom we can implicitly identify with the abusive teacher on the previous album’s “The Happiest Days of Our Lives,” is a survivor of war who appears to be suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, a problem common with many war veterans. In “The Fletcher Memorial Home,” he speaks of rounding up a bunch of then-current world leaders, placing them in an old folks’ home where they can appear to each other on closed-circuit television (which is “the only connection they feel”), and applying the Nazis’ Final Solution to them. “The Gunner’s Dream” most explicitly espouses Waters’ view of an ideal world: free of war, a place in which “everyone has recourse to the law / And no-one kills the children anymore.” “Not Now John” and, to a lesser extent, “Paranoid Eyes” analyse the current world order and finds it to be a place of nearly unbearable stress and bravado, wherein the common man, unable to achieve his dreams, is forced to turn to alcohol in an unsuccessful attempt to numb the pain.
The title track is arguably the most personal Pink Floyd song ever written and one of the few pieces in their catalogue that could be construed as a love song, and can be considered this album’s “Comfortably Numb”, although it is worth noting that it was originally written for The Wall. The album ends on a pessimistic note, with the nuclear holocaust of “Two Suns in the Sunset” annihilating the hopes expressed in “The Gunner’s Dream” (Waters makes this explicit by singing, “You have no recourse to the law anymore”).
Reception to the album was mixed. Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone gave the album five stars out of a possible five at its release, calling it “art-rock’s crowning masterpiece” and declaring that “Not since Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ twenty years ago has a popular artist unleashed upon the world political order a moral contempt so corrosively convincing, or a life-loving hatred so bracing and brilliantly sustained.” However, the album failed to appear on its Best Albums of the Eighties list at the end of the decade.
The readers of Pink Floyd’s unofficial fan magazine The Amazing Pudding also famously voted it as Pink Floyd’s worst album, even as the editors voted it their best. The album was considered a commercial disappointment, “only” selling three million copies.
Front Cover/Album Artwork
The cover was designed by Roger Waters. It features a Remembrance Day poppy and four World War II medal ribbons (from left):
* 1939-1945 Star– for at least 6 months service between 1939 and 1945,
* Africa Star – for service in the North African Campaign,
* Defence Medal – for 3 years service,
* Distinguished Flying Cross – for acts of courage, valour or devotion to duty while flying.
Vinyl copies did not have the album title on the cover; this was added for the CD and cassette releases.
The back cover depicted a man stabbed in the back carrying a film canister.
The picture labels on the vinyl copies depicted roses in a poppy field on side one (this artwork was also featured on the 1997 Columbia remaster and the 2004 remaster. This is the picture label on the 1997 Columbia remastered CD copies). Side two depicted a man that was stabbed in the back (from the back cover) now lying face forward dead with a dog standing (this artwork was also featured on the 1997 Columbia remaster and the 2004 remaster booklets. This is the picture label on the 1994 EMI Europe remaster and 2004 Capitol/EMI remastered CD copies).
Re-Issues of The Final Cut
In 1986, the album was released on CD. A digitally remastered CD was released in 1994 in Europe on EMI and in 1997 for the rest of the world on Columbia using an up to date remastering job. A remastered and repackaged CD was released on 19 March 2004 in Europe on EMI and 4 May 2004 in the U.S. on Capitol Records to commemorate the album’s 21st anniversary. The track “When the Tigers Broke Free”, previously only available as a 1982 single release and, later, on Echoes, was added albeit in a slightly remixed form to the versions found on the movie version of The Wall and Echoes.
“It’s very very good, but it’s not personally how I would see a Pink Floyd record going. The sound quality is very good, it’s very very well recorded, and the string arrangements and orchestral stuff are very well done, but it’s not me. Consequently, I was arguing about how to make the record, at the beginning and it was being counterproductive.” – David Gilmour, in a May 1983 interview
“The Final Cut was absolutely misery to make, although I listened to it of late and I rather like a lot of it. But I don’t like my singing on it. You can hear the mad tension running through it all. If you’re trying to express something and being prevented from doing it because you’re so uptight…It was a horrible time. We were all fighting like cats and dogs. We were finally realising—or accepting, if you like—that there was no band. It was really being thrust upon us that we were not a band and had not been in accord for a long time. Not since 1975, when we made “Wish You Were Here”. Even then there were big disagreements about content and how to put the record together […] It sold three million copies, which wasn’t a lot for the Pink Floyd. And as a consequence, Dave Gilmour went on record as saying, “There you go: I knew he was doing it wrong all along.” But it’s absolutely ridiculous to judge a record solely on sales. If you’re going to use sales as the sole criterion, it makes Grease a better record than Graceland.” – Roger Waters, June 1987, to Chris Salewicz“
Well, this has been my beef for years, I mean always has been one of my beefs about what we do is that the balance has to be maintained. I’ve said it hundreds of times, ad nauseam I’ve said it—it’s the balance between the words and the music I think is a very important thing and that’s what I think we lost very much on The Final Cut.” – David Gilmour, Australian Radio, February 1988
“The Final Cut was the low point in our Pink Floyd career for me, personally. I started off trying to do my best on that record… I had tried to point out to Roger that some of the tracks he wanted to put on it were tracks we had rejected off The Wall album because we didn’t like them, you know. Roger just thought I was interfering… he’d got to a sort of megalomaniac stage where he could not tolerate anyone else having any real say in what was going on. We did fight horribly throughout that whole period.” – David Gilmour, Pink Floyd 25th Anniversary Special, May 1992 (aired by Westwood One Radio Network)
“I don’t think the results are an awful lot I mean (there are) a couple of reasonable tracks, at best. I did vote for The Fletcher Memorial Home to be on Echoes. I like that. Fletcher, The Gunner Dream and the title track are the three reasonable tracks on that. The rest of The Final Cut is dross.” – David Gilmour, Record Collector, May 2003
During the end of “The Fletcher Memorial Home”, the main character’s newspaper includes the headline “Your Son’s Head in a Box”. This is most likely a reference to “Run Like Hell” from Pink Floyd’s previous album, The Wall.
In the movie, Roger Waters is paying a visit to a psychiatrist at the “Fletcher Memorial Home”. One quick shot shows the psychiatrist diploma, revealing that his name is “A. Parker-Marshall”. Alan Parker and Alan Marshall were, respectively, the film director and producer of the “The Wall” movie. Waters fought considerably during the production of the film, trying to put his vision across, and has been quoted many times in saying that he disliked the final product. Other criticism towards the movie can be found both in the lyrics of “Not Now John” and the back-cover photo of the stabbed soldier holding the film canister.
- Wikipedia Entry
- Watch Final Cut 19min Movie on Pink Floyd’s Website